The Hon. R.I. LUCAS ( 15:46 :14 ): We had the embarrassing and demeaning situation in question time today of the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council not only making a paper plane for himself but launching a paper plane as part of his response to some difficult questions on the Northern Economic Plan. I think, as you know, the government has not had a very good record in terms of the quality of its leaders of government in recent times. The names of the Hon. Mr Finnigan and the Hon. Gail Gago spring readily to mind, and one would certainly hope that the Hon. Kyam Maher might at least have been able to lift himself above the performance of those two leaders of the government.
When you have the demeaning situation where a minister, a leader of the government, in South Australia has to stoop to making paper planes and launching paper planes—contrary to standing orders, I might say—in question time to try to get himself out of some difficult questions on the Northern Economic Plan, it is a sad indictment of the Hon. Mr Maher and this government.
The genesis of all this is the government's launch of the Northern Economic Plan. Clearly, everyone supports governments doing something about the challenging economic circumstances confronting the north as a result of the decision of Holden to leave South Australia, and to leave Australia. The much-vaunted aspect of the Northern Economic Plan was that it was going to create 15,000 new jobs in the northern area.
The simple question that has been put to the Hon. Mr Maher by me, and indeed by others, is: how was this 15,000 number developed and who developed it? The question was asked whether Treasury did it, because normally for these sorts of plans Treasury signs off on a job estimate. Regarding the Gillman plan, which was 6,000 jobs, or the resource plan, which was launched recently and which was for 5,000 jobs, there would have been some input either from Treasury or from the economic forecasting section of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
Were consultants brought in? The Hon. Mr Maher said no. He says quite clearly and explicitly that this 15,000 number was developed by the local mayors and himself. The embarrassing part for the minister is that Elizabeth Henson from the Northern Messenger actually went and spoke to the mayors. I do not have time in this contribution to again repeat their direct quotes, but one of them said that the first he saw of it was the night before it was launched, and another said he had not seen it until after it was actually launched.
Clearly, this 15,000 job number was developed either by the minister or one of the minister's spin doctors, or one of the government's spin doctors, in the Premier's department or elsewhere, to try to tart up the Northern Economic Plan and to try to give it some credibility, which without a job number it would not have.
It is correct to say that the mayors were saying there should be a job target but our question was: how did you arrive at 15,000 and what was the basis and who has developed the number? As I said, the minister wrongly asserted that this was a joint decision of his and the mayors, and his response today in playing with paper planes in Parliament House in question time did not obscure the fact he did not answer the question, 'Who actually developed the 15,000 job estimate?' given that the mayor said that they were not party to a decision to arrive at the 15,000 job number?
That is the question that remains unanswered and it is a genuine question, one that people are asking, because clearly someone has come up with this particular 15,000 job claim number included in the Northern Economic Plan, and no amount of paper plane playing by the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council is going to obscure that fact.
So the pressure remains on the Leader of the Government and the minister in this particular area to eventually respond. It is not an issue that people are going to let rest; they will continue to persist in trying to establish where this 15,000 job estimate number has come from. What credibility can we place upon it in terms of whether or not this $24 million Northern Economic Plan will ever generate any jobs or whether it will generate 15,000 jobs? All I can say is that even the Leader of the Government's own colleagues in his party were shaking their heads in dismay when he started playing with paper planes in question time.